A MIXTURE of youth and experience should serve Clonakilty well in their Cork LGFA intermediate football county final against Glanmire according to Ciara Ryan.
The versatile 21-year-old forward has been a mainstay in the West Cork side en route to the county decider in Kilmichael this Saturday evening.
The UCC student is in her third year studying nursing and about to go on an eight-week placement in CUH. But right now, a second championship meeting with Glanmire and the prospect of contesting a county decider is all Ryan and her team-mates can think of.
‘Everyone in the Clonakilty squad is excited about playing in a county final,’ Ryan said.
'Even though I’m only 21, I’ve been playing football for Clonakilty for many years, both at underage and senior, but never reached a county final until now. To finally get there is the icing on the cake for me and the squad considering how hard we have worked since the start of this year.
‘We have been knocking on the door for some time which has made winning our last couple of championship games all the sweeter. Last year, we managed to reach the county semi-finals but lost to Rosscarbery in a tight game.
‘There is a great buzz around the camp at the minute. Everything is going well and everyone is just looking forward to playing Glanmire on Saturday.’
Ryan and Clonakilty gained a modicum of revenge over their West Cork neighbours by defeating Rosscarbery in the last four of this year’s Cork intermediate football championship. Prior to that, Clon opened their championship campaign with a sobering 2-9 to 0-7 loss at home to Sunday’s county final opponents, Glanmire.
Rebounding in style, the West Cork club put up an impressive score in seeing off Araglen Desmonds Buí before edging a marvellous semi-final at Rosscarbery by seven points. That semi-final performance was Clon’s best of the season so far. It had to be to overcome a talented Rosscarbery outfit.
‘I would say that the Rosscarbery performance was the best Clonakilty has produced for a good few years,’ Ryan added.
‘We lost to Glanmire in the first round and everyone was disappointed by that even though we knew we would be up against it. Glanmire are a very young and athletic team but we were just getting started.
‘All the U16s and minors that have come up have blended in so well and are making a massive difference this year. Their inter-county experience along with the experienced players already on the panel like the O’Leary’s, Martina O’Brien and Sinead O’Neill has been important. Our six forwards are all U21 players right now which bodes well for the next few years.’
Despite their recent improvements, Saturday’s showdown with an unbeaten Glanmire sees Clonakilty entering the county final as underdogs. The West Cork side’s opponents, and 2018 All-Ireland junior champions, produced a thrilling display to see off 2019 All-Ireland winners Donoughmore in the semi-finals.
A fast, open contest is anticipated between two teams who prefer to keep the ball in hand but move it at pace. So, how much of a factor will the opening round defeat to Glanmire be or will it play on the Clonakilty player’s minds at all?
‘We will need all the experience we have gained from last year and this season going into the Glanmire game,’ Clon forward Ryan explained.
‘Winning would mean the world to us. The older girls haven’t been in a county final since 2009-10 so it has been a long time for our senior team, even though we have qualified for a few finals at younger age-grades, to be in a county final.
‘This year has been great because we have had Martina O’Brien around. She has been excellent with us and given us so much advice. Martina is encouraging and supporting us the whole time whereas usually she is away with the Cork senior team.
‘Martina is a great asset to Clonakilty, especially the way she manages her back line. She has given us a big boost when we needed it this year so we are just looking forward to facing Glanmire in the county final now.’